By the end of Lisa Nakamura’s article “Don’t Hate the Player….” I was unsure how to feel about these “Chinese farmers.” Does Nakamura want me to feel sorry for these workers who experience racism even in a digital world? Well, frankly I didn’t. Not that I am callous to their experience, but I wonder if a person motivated by economic need who sits in front of a screen all day pointing and clicking, who may not even understand English, is really getting too offended.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think Nakamura provided an adequate rendering of the real-life situations of these farmers. Instead I left thinking that the issue has much more to do with the economic situation of those who need to robotically play a game to make money, than some vaguely racist video some kid made. Sure, people are racist, and when they get a new way to communicate, they utilize it to express racist sentiments, but I don’t think the game has much to do with those opinions.
My big issue with Nakamura’s rhetorical strategy comes from her drastic shifts between reprimanding players for generalizing online farmers as impoverished Chinese players, and then turning around and using the same generalizations in her own points. She makes special note to acknowledge that the use of “Chinese” as an insult is more of a jab at a style of play, not necessarily connected to the player’s actual race. Additionally, she states that “though not all farmers, or for-profit workers, are Asian by any means, the image of the farmer has come to include race as part of the package” (Nakamura 132). Here she tries to demonstrate how this stereotyped connection between race and negative behavior is an example of racism exhibiting itself on this online platform.
But then she does the exact same thing to make her arguments! In explaining how “gold farmers…unlike other types of ‘‘migrant’’ workers, their labors are offshore, and thus invisible – they are ‘virtual migrants,’” she assumes that these types of players are foreign (Nakamura 131). Even her consistent use of the term “Chinese farmers” to describe these “for-profit players” reveals her own entrenchment in the notions she tries to criticize. Perhaps she would argue that she uses this term for ease of understanding, but I think that sticking to “farmers” would have done the trick for this article.
Nakamura’s investigation of racism that has bled from physical reality to virtual reality is compelling, but more of a look at an effect than a cause. She talks about how some scholars have praised these worlds because “they are exempt from ‘real world’ problems such as racism, classism…” but that these ideals are riddled with fallacies (Nakamura 130). Though she provides ample support for these claims of racist prevalence in virtual worlds, I still don’t know how she she proposes we fix it by exploring the virtual fruit of the problem instead of it’s real-world roots.